May 28th, 2021 

LGBTQ Advocates Celebrate Passage of Illinois Marriage Certificate Name Change Legislation

LGBTQ advocates are celebrating passage of state legislation that will provide certainty for individuals requesting that their Illinois marriage certificates reflect a legal name change.

HB 2590 is an initiative of Equality Illinois and Chicago House and Social Service Agency and is sponsored by State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz and State Rep. Ann Williams. With bipartisan support, HB 2590 passed the Illinois House 82-28 on April 22 and the Illinois Senate 49-5 on May 28th.

With HB 2590, a county clerk must issue a new marriage certificate with the new legal name on it if one of the parties to the marriage shows a legal name change order. This standard in HB 2590 is the same standard for making legal name changes on birth certificates, passports, and driver’s licenses.

In 2019 and 2020, the TransLife Care Program at Chicago House and Social Service Agency and Equality Illinois were contacted by several individuals who encountered roadblocks from county clerks to changing their legal names on their marriage certificates – despite the individuals already having legal name change orders. County clerks offered varying standards for how to change a legal name on a marriage certificate. Clearly, a uniform statutory standard is needed for name changes on marriage certificates.

HB 2590 is the second marriage certificate bill passed in 2021 by Sen. Feigenholtz and Rep. Williams. The other bill is SB 139, which allows individuals to correct or remove the gendered language on a marriage certificate. SB 139, which is an initiative of the Cook County Clerk’s Office, passed the Illinois Senate on April 21 and Illinois House on May 19.

Advocate Quotes:

Kathy Flores, Director of the Anti-Violence Program at Diverse and Resilient in Appleton, Wisconsin:
“My partner Zephyr and I were married on July 18, 2014 at the Chicago Art Institute in Cook County. We were married on a beautiful summer day surrounded by our three adult daughters. However, you won’t find an accurate record of our marriage because the certificate holds the former name of my transgender partner because since then, my partner has transitioned including through the legal process of changing his name, driver’s license, social security and birth certificate.

“In searching how to change our Illinois marriage license, we ran into a road blocks and we learned eventually that there is no way to change a name or gender on a marriage license. As someone who advocates for the LGBTQ community, I found it hard to believe that one can transition and change every single legal document except a marriage license.

“I am a cancer and aneurysm survivor and currently live with Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. I would hate to have my partner have to deal with the pain and trauma of having to prove they are my partner at a time they will be grieving me. And if they die first, I also do not want to be having to sift through red tape all because the name of my partner’s legal documents are one thing and the marriage license is another. At a time where we should be treated with dignity and respect, we fear we’ll be once again treated with scorn and rejection. That is why we advocated for HB 2590.”

Joint statement from Elizabeth Ricks, Legal Director of the TransLife Care Program at Chicago House and Social Service Agency, and Myles Brady Davis, Director of Communications and Press Secretary at Equality Illinois:
“We are excited Illinois is moving forward. Thank you to Sen. Feigenholtz and Rep. Williams for leading on HB 2590. This legislation is a reminder of how state laws and policies must constantly be reviewed and modernized to ensure a person can seamlessly update their identity documents to reflect their authentic self. When we heard from individuals – who already had legal name change orders – about the roadblocks they experienced when requesting to change the name on their marriage certificates to reflect their legal name change, we knew we had to act. We thank those advocates for sharing their stories with us and with legislators.”

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